Until we can hire and train more bus drivers, Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD) can only provide 16 of its 21 regular bus routes, causing delays and/or reduced service for some students.
Gabriel Sherman, UUSD Director of Maintenance, Operations and Transportation, says the district is considering creative transportation options while the driver shortage is addressed. In the meantime, current UUSD bus drivers and other staff members are “doing the best we can,” Sherman said.
“We have many school employees staying longer after school to supervise students who take the later busses, and bus drivers driving longer routes to make sure students arrive to and from home safely,” he said.
In some of the more remote areas served by the district, like the less populated parts of Redwood Valley, busses are not going as far as they used to, so students must either walk the additional distance to their homes or parents must arrange transportation from the bus stop. In other cases, fewer busses means longer waits. At Nokomis Elementary, for example, two 78-passenger busses used to depart after school. One would go north, the other south. Now, one 78-passenger bus delivers students to the north, then returns to school to pick up students who live to the south.
Although California does not require its school districts to transport students who live far from school, UUSD Superintendent Debra Kubin said she cannot imagine cancelling bus service when it would leave students with no easy way to get to and from school.
Sherman praised the drivers who are dealing with this driver shortage every day. “Despite the fact they are working longer hours and dealing with complaints about the delays, our drivers continue to greet the kids with cheer and perform their jobs with dedication. Many of the route refinements and ideas that have allowed us to continue to operate have come directly from the people driving the routes.”
Sherman noted that the turnover among our bus drivers is very low, in part because many of them like the six-hour work day that has a break in the middle. “And they enjoy working with the kids,” he said. He was pleased to share that UUSD has already identified four of the five drivers they need and those drivers are in various stages of training.
California law dictates that drivers undergo several hours of technical, safety and behind-the-wheel training and pass a rigorous test before they can become certified to drive schoolchildren. They must also undergo random drug testing. The whole training and certification process can take months.
If you or someone you know is interested in working for the school district, as a bus driver or substitute bus driver, please visit our website at www.uusd.net to apply online, or call us at (707) 472-5042 for more information.
For a copy of current bus routes, visit www.uusd.net and click on Bus Information; then select Bus Routes in the sidebar.